What the Communication Access Symbol means to Micheal

Read about why communication access is important to a teenager in our community.

Michael loves chatting with people
Micheal loves chatting with people

If you get the chance to talk to Micheal, you soon realise that he’s an extremely social young man with a wicked sense of humour.

Micheal is learning to communicate using an electronic communication device to get his message across that he controls using his eyes.

Micheal communicates by looking at a tablet screen that has words and symbols displayed on it. The tablet tracks where his eyes are looking, and speaks the words out loud.

Michael uses an eye gaze electronic communication device to talk
Micheal uses an eye gaze electronic communication device to talk

Micheal attended a special school and made plenty of life-long friends with his peers and adults there. They knew how to support Micheal to communicate. They received training to understand how people communicate and how to use various communication tools and strategies to support successful communication.

Micheal recently graduated, and is settling into adult life.

Each week, Micheal meets up with his speech pathologist, at a local shopping centre, to practise using his communication system in the community. They have a cuppa and a chat at their favourite café, visit some shops and pick up some groceries from Woolworths.

It sounds like a pretty ordinary weekly experience for anybody, but Micheal’s communication difficulty means that there is often an invisible barrier between Micheal and the staff at the shops that he visits. Many people choose to talk to his communication partner instead of Micheal, or freeze up when asked to speak to Micheal instead.

What Micheal would like to do when in these situations is to be able to have a chat to the friendly baristas behind the café counter and order his food, just like anybody else.

Michael’s eye gaze device speaks out what he wants to say
Micheal’s eye gaze device speaks out what he wants to say

Over 1 million people in Australia have a communication difficulty just like Micheal.

Having a communication difficulty sometimes means that these people can experience isolation from the community because people like staff aren’t equipped with the communication tools, knowledge or support to effectively communicate with them.

Communication access and the Communication Access Symbol is one way your business can help change this.

The Communication Access Symbol tells people that your business has been assessed and has met certain standards to ensure that people just like Micheal can do what everyone else can do  – be acknowledged, order their own food, have a bit of a chat, and say ‘thank you’ to staff who are confident in understanding how different people communicate.

When asked what Micheal thought of the Communication Access Symbol, he responded by saying with his eye gaze communication device that it was “really cool”.

“The Communication Access Symbol is really cool” says Michael
“The Communication Access Symbol is really cool” says Micheal

Micheal said that all businesses and services – including “supermarkets”, “banks” and “fast food chains” should work towards getting the Communication Access Symbol so that everyone can communicate at any time, wherever they are, with anyone.

If you would like to find out more information about becoming a communication accessible business, contact Scope’s Communication and Inclusion Resource Centre on 03 9843 2000 or circ@scopeaust.org.au